Morning reading

Just the Ticket (Bill Keller, NY Times)

Keller argues that Obama must ditch Joe Biden in favour of Hillary Clinton in order to win in 2012. Well worth a read.

New Year’s resolutions for Labour (Luke Akehurst, Progress)

A really interesting piece about what UK Labour, and it’s individual members should resolve to do in the new year. My personal favourite:

Refound your local Labour party.  We passed a sensible and comprehensive package of organisational reforms at annual conference. They won’t get implemented on the ground unless local activists pick them up and run with them. Has your CLP started recruiting people to the supporters’ network yet? Has it looked at campaigning best practice from Oxford, Barking and Birmingham Edgbaston and tried to emulate it locally? No one is going to do this for you.

Did Jon Huntsman Attack Himself with Racist Ad to Salvage His Failed Campaign? (Rachel Maddow)

Morning reading

Now that David Shearer has a few notches under his belt: winning the leadership, allocating portfolios and an Address in Reply speech, the pundits are starting to weigh in with their views. Labour took a big gamble in picking Shearer, and at least so far, it seems to be working. Key’s response to Shearer’s speech was shrill. Shearer has got under Key’s skin already.

Key and Shearer clash in Parliament (3News)

His debut speech was a strong one on Parliament’s first day, attacking government policies set out earlier in the speech from the throne and vowing Labour would earn the right to lead in the next election.

Shearer vows to listen, learn and act (Audrey Young, NZ Herald)

New Labour leader David Shearer used his major debut speech in Parliament as Opposition leader to promise change in Labour following last month’s election loss.

Prime Minister John Key scoffed at the promise, ridiculed Labour and said Mr Shearer had delivered a speech that former leader Phil Goff would be proud to have written.

And from the UK…

Labour party shadow cabinet agonises about economic message (Patrick Wintour, Guardian)

Labour high command has been holding a series of discussions on why the party has not yet made a breakthrough with the public on the issue of economic competence, despite falling living standards and an admission by the coalition government that its growth and borrowing forecasts are worse than foreseen.

Labour officials say the meetings – including one on Tuesday – are routine, but privately shadow cabinet members are concerned by polls showing the government is managing to avoid blame for the slowdown.

The Labour discussions have reached a new pitch since the autumn statement and the government’s admission that austerity will continue until after the election, so undercutting the central pillar of its deficit reduction plan.

The debates have been stirred up by a paper by the centre-left thinktank Policy Network, entitled In the Black, calling for fiscal conservatism.

Morning Reading

Shearer gives team 12 months to shape up (Claire Trevett, NZ Herald)

Excellent. This is what we should be expecting of our caucus: they work hard and are rewarded for it.

Most Labour MPs are satisfied by Labour leader David Shearer’s first lineup – but he delivered the new rankings with a warning for the MPs to prove they were up to their jobs before a review after a year.

Kim Jong Phil [iTunes link] (The Egonomist)

It’s listening – not reading!

The Egonomist is the only political podcast in New Zealand I know of, which makes it the best! It’s rather good anyway – very funny and very informed. In this episode they discuss Kim Jong Il’s death, and the Labour leadership change. Just a quick word of warning, the language may be a little colourful for some, which is all part of the appeal as far as I’m concerned.

Lord Mandelson warns of dangers ahead for Labour leader (Nicholas Watt, The Guardian)

A very interesting piece regarding Mandelson’s thoughts on why Miliband isn’t getting traction.

“It’s not New Labour, he’s perfectly clear about that, but then he would say the circumstances and the conditions in Britain are not the same as they were when we were creating New Labour in the 1990s. Those were the days when markets were very much in fashion, the British economy and capitalist model of how we do things in this country seemed to be delivering, everyone’s incomes were eternally rising. They’re not now. And he believes that we need a different sort of social contract. Now there are dangers in developing that, but he has to navigate his way through, and I think 2012 is the year to do that.”

Democratic ignorance

From Science via io9

You might think that democracies work best when people care and know about the key issues. But a new study argues that for a democracy to function at all, you need lots of ignorant people blindly siding with the majority.

That’s the argument put forward by Princeton researcher Iain Couzin and his team, who make the argument that a fully informed electorate would collapse into an unworkable hodgepodge of minority factions or risk being dominated by a single forceful minority group. But if most voters don’t really think about the issues, they will just tend to side with whoever is popular, allowing majority rule to continue and democracy to keep functioning. Yeah, you might want to check your last shreds of political idealism at the door for this one.

Sounds like a very interesting study into voter behaviour. The thing is, it’s not. It was a study on animal behaviour, performed with a school of golden shiner fish. Still, interesting stuff.


Morning reading

In advance tomorrow’s commission opening of Parliament, and Wednesday’s state opening, David Shearer will today unveil Labour’s new lineup.

It’s going to be interesting. Firstly, to see how Shearer balances experience with new talent: on Goff’s last front bench team of 12, there were only two people (Robertson and Chauvel) who were not ministers in the Clark government. Secondly, it’s going to be interesting to see how he deals with David Cunliffe and Nanaia Mahuta – and a good measure of that will come down to what they will accept. I’ll post my thoughts on the new lineup later in the day.

Labour readies new front bench (Adam Bennett, NZ Herald)

The final shape of new Labour leader David Shearer’s front bench will be announced this afternoon but a question mark remained over what role defeated leadership challenger David Cunliffe would take.

“We want to reflect that there’s change and it’s fresh faced and I think people will see that tomorrow,” Mr Shearer said yesterday.

Shearer to chart new direction for Labour (Tracy Watkins & John Heartvelt, Stuff)

Mr Shearer will unveil his lineup today and says it will signal that Labour “has turned a page” and is ready for a fresh start – a nod to the number of new faces on his front bench.

Mr Shearer has made it clear he wants Mr Cunliffe to occupy one of the eight frontbench slots and expects to give him a senior role. He confirmed yesterday that he was looking for Mr Cunliffe “to play a senior role in a senior position”.

Other MPs tipped for the front bench include deputy Grant Robertson, high-profile Maori MP Shane Jones, who is likely to pick up an economic role, David Parker – who dropped out of the leadership race early – in finance and second-term MP Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Cunliffe’s running mate, Nanaia Mahuta, is another possibility for the front bench, potentially in the Maori affairs portfolio.


Sunday reading

Questions over Waitakere vote (Kathryn Powley, NZ Herald)

Evidence of dodgy voting has emerged in the battle for Waitakere. A judge has found nine people voted twice and 393 people voted despite not being on the electoral roll.

The issue here is not quite what it seems. The nine people who double voted have well and truly broken the law, and should be punished appropriately.

However, the situation of the 393 who were not on the roll is different. I’m sure all of them thought they were properly enrolled. Because of the way our voting system works, they get to cast a special vote anyway, however they will never find out that they are not properly enrolled and therefore their vote does not count. It’s an issue that we need to get sorted out.

National president flying the flag (Chloe Johnson, NZ Herald)

National Party president Peter Goodfellow has been labelled pretentious for flying the New Zealand flag from the bonnet of his ex-ministerial BMW – the prerogative of the Governor-General or the Queen when she visits.

I think ‘pretentious’ is putting it mildly.

I’ve just been internalizing a really complicated situation in my head (Nicky Hagar, Pundit)

Nicky’s thoughts on the election result. Very thorough. I could devote weeks covering what he’s said. Instead, you can read it for yourself.



Morning reads

Feltham and Heston byelection (UK Labour List)

The Labour Party have retained the seat of Feltham and Heston in a byelection, with a swing of 8% from the Conservative Party. Labour List have a few articles on it. Check out Malhotra becomes Labour’s Newest MP and 5 things we learned in Feltham and Heston.

The world according to David Shearer (Dominion Post)

After barely two and a half years as an MP David Shearer was catapulted into the leadership of the Labour party this week. His history as an aid worker, including gongs for bravery, has been splashed across the headlines. But Fairfax Media’s political team set out to fill in the gaps by talking to the man, his former teachers and friends and those who worked with him in some of the world’s worst trouble spots.

David Shearer: Battle-hardened in the war zones (Derek Cheng, NZ Herald)

He says anyone who questions Shearer’s negotiating skills should review his history of dealing with the armed, desperate and irrational. For half an hour Shearer talked to the gunman through an interpreter before the man let them go, embarrassed to have terrified them.

It is Shearer’s two decades as a humanitarian worker on the frontlines – first for the Save the Children Fund, then for the United Nations – that have come to the fore in the weeks leading to his win this week in Labour’s leadership vote.

Morning reads

Cunliffe not so supportive after all (

An embittered David Cunliffe is refusing to rule out quitting Parliament altogether as leader David Shearer moves to finalise his front bench.

It is understood Mr Cunliffe has been offered a front bench seat and a senior portfolio but has balked at his proposed ranking.

This is not good. After Cunliffe pledged his support to Shearer, we would have expected better. To be honest, maybe it would be best if he either left parliament, or spent some time on the back benches (a la David Miliband). The last thing the new Labour caucus needs is their own Kevin Rudd.

Key rejects Shearer’s call for cross party poverty group (Amelia Romanos, NZ Herald)

Not at all surprising, but still disappointing…

Labour leader David Shearer’s wish to be included in a ministerial poverty committee is unlikely to come true.

In the formal announcement about Labour’s leadership yesterday, Mr Shearer said he did not want to see the gap between the rich and poor grow further, and wanted to be part of the Government’s proposed poverty committee.

“John Key has indicated he is finally prepared to address the issue of poverty and will set up a ministerial committee. I call on him to be brave and open that committee up to all political parties,” Mr Shearer said.

“I want to be on it and to have the chance to offer my expertise to help us deal with the problem.”

One of David Shearer’s strengths is that he does have expertise in dealing with exactly these issues. If Key were to take the issue seriously he would not only be looking to include Shearer, but also all the other parties in Parliament, to work together to find lasting solutions for the massive poverty issue this country faces.

There are too many Ministers (Trevor Mallard, Red Alert)

Good to hear this from Trevor…

New Zealand has a ridiculous number of Ministers for a country our size.

It had got slightly worse under MMP but this government has taken it beyond absurd with 80% of the non National confidence and supply partner members bought off with a Ministerial post, and the final one on a promise of getting one during the term.

I spent three years as a whip which included cabinet committee experience in the 1980s and the nine years as a Minister in the Clark government.

I saw lots of weak, and some frankly useless Ministers. Most, but not all, were in the second half of the rankings. They often caused more work than they added value. There was an enormous amount of time wasted explaining what was either obvious or buried in papers that if they had been read hadn’t been understood.

We do need to look at the size of the ministry, but in the context of a bigger review of our public service. I’m totally opposed to the sort of across the board cuts that Tony Ryall seems so keen on, but a measured look at how we can make our public service more effective has got to be worth while.